The Kiernan Gallery is thrilled to have Ken Rosenthal jury The Unreal. We have asked Ken a few questions about his work, below.
From series Not Dark Yet
How does your personal work influence your role as juror for The Unreal?
I think my artwork will slightly influence the way I jury this show, inasmuch as I clearly have an interest in work that deviates from a literal depiction of the world. That said, I am not looking for work that is very reminiscent of my own, especially regarding the formal qualities of the work. I do, however, expect that I will see imagery that explores similar themes and interests. As an artist who works in the series format, I will likely gravitate towards solid submissions from a cohesive body of work as opposed to “one offs.”
In your artist statements you describe a desire to explore memory, dreams, false remembrances. What drew you to explore this facet of your mind? What do you find so compelling about dreams and memories, and why use photography as opposed to another medium to explore these ideas?
About 12 years ago I began working with images from my family archive. Many of the images that elicited strong memories had been made before I was born, and I was fascinated by the phenomenon of memory that can be attributed to a photograph, a story, or a dream as opposed to experience. That became the point of entry for me with the series that became Seen and Not Seen. The relationship between memory and photography is the predominant theme linking Seen and Not Seen with the five subsequent series I made employing the diffusion technique that has characterized my work.
From series Seen and Not Seen
Your most recent work, That Was The River, This Is The Sea and The Forest are very different in terms of subject matter. How did you arrive at The Forest and what connections do you see between the two bodies of work?
I view That Was The River, This Is The Sea as a transitional series, one that serves as a bridge between the “blurry work” and The Forest. In That Was The River, there is still a very recognizable connection to the earlier work, both thematically and formally. Both series are highly autobiographic, though that is less obvious perhaps when viewing The Forest.
I think with The Forest, I’ve made an even greater shift formally and thematically. It is the closest I’ve come to a series of typologies, though I don’t view the work as typological. As with all series I’ve worked on over the past dozen years or so, this series developed very organically. I did not set out with any preconceived notions of making this series. I spend at least a month each summer up in the Pacific Northwest, a combination of shooting and vacation. Last year the weather was miserable, and it rained nearly the entire five weeks or so that I was up there. I was with my daughters, and we all had cabin fever. I found myself needing to break away each evening for some alone time, and found myself seeing a familiar territory in an altogether new light.
The Forest in part relates to a specific place, but is in essence an exploration of self. For me, it’s the most complicated and personal work I’ve done. It is the first series I’ve made in which all the images are landscapes. Yet it is not at all about landscape. The landscapes functions metaphorically for an internal space: one that is dense, layered, not easily navigated, and filled with myriad revelations waiting to be discovered.
Cosmos from That Was the River, This is the Sea
Your work has a unique relationship between the past and present by incorporating a vintage aesthetic and a mastery of print craftsmanship. How do you think your work will be interpreted 150 years from now?
I honestly don’t know how to answer that question. One hundred fifty from now, the photographic medium will be nearly twice as old as it is now. It is curious to imagine what, if any, of the techniques being employed today will still be used in 2162. My hope is that future generations will look at this work and consider it to be an interesting piece of the puzzle that is photography at the beginning of the Twenty-first century: a time of huge transition within the young life of our medium. I do take great pride in the prints I produce, and it would be lovely if they continue to have an audience in 2162.
The Great Divide
And lastly, we ask this of all of our artists, how do you define success in art?
Ultimately, I think success in art comes from the ability to consistently produce new and vital work over a considerable period of time. It is easy enough to produce a great series or two, but few are the artists who can continue to evolve artistically and challenge themselves for decades. I would equate the ability to sustain one’s vision, and artistic integrity over time, with success.
The deadline to submit your work to The Unreal is today, September 18, 2012 and the exhibition will run from October 31 – December 1.